The researchers looked at 18 mammals and 19 birds, such as the white-tailed eagle
Over the past few centuries, animals in Europe
have not fared well. Hunting, habitat loss, and pollution have sent
animals into decline.
But this report marks a reversal in fortunes.
The researchers looked at 18 mammals and 19 bird species found across Europe.
They found that all, apart from the Iberian lynx, had increased in abundance from the 1960s.
The largest increases were for the European bison, the
Eurasian beaver, the white-headed duck, some populations of the
pink-footed goose and the barnacle goose. These had all increased by
more than 3,000% during the past five decades.
For top predators such as the brown bear, numbers have
doubled. And for the grey wolf, which saw serious losses in the past,
populations have climbed by 30%.
For mammals, the comeback was largest in the south and west
of Europe, and their range had increased on average by about 30%. The
average range of the birds remained stable.
Mr Schepers said: "The wildlife comeback actually started after World
War II in the 1950s and 1960s. Compared to the numbers in the 1600s
and 1700s, it's still at a very low level, but it's coming back."
The researchers believe a combination of factors have been driving this return.
Legal protection in the European Union, such as the birds
directive and habitats directive, had helped to revive the fortunes of
species, as had dedicated conservation schemes, said Mr Schepers.
And while some animals are still hunted in parts of Europe, there are often limits on the number that can be killed.
"It is also because people are leaving the countryside, which leaves more space for wildlife," said Mr Schepers.
The recovery of some species, particularly large predators,
has raised concerns. In France, for example, where wolves have recently
returned, farmers are concerned that their livestock is at risk.
The report warns that this could be a growing problem, but suggests
that governments should put in place compensation schemes to offset any
losses for farmers. It also says that rural communities could benefit
from more animals, as ecotourism could offer a boost to local economies.
The finding is surprising when seen in the global context, where biodiversity is in continuing decline.
Prof Jonathan Baillie, director of
conservation at the Zoological Society of London, said: "We're trying to
find success stories so we can learn from them, so we can see what
works and scale that up across the conservation movement globally.
"And it is really important that we focus on success and where we are winning.
"But there are massive challenges out there globally. And we
have to realise that the threats that Europe creates are not just within
our borders, it's internationally, and that we are having an impact on
the 60% decline we're seeing in low income countries around the world."
He also warned that Europe's wildlife was at a pivotal moment.
"We just have to be aware that into the future there will be
increasing pressure for food production and so on within Europe," he
"And for a lot of these species, where we have seen the
gains, we might lose them again if we are not careful. So it's our job
to keep our eye on the ball."